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review 2017-06-22 02:50
The latest Tufa novel is another winner.
Gather Her Round: A Novel of the Tufa (Tufa Novels) - Alex Bledsoe

Man, it's hard to write much that doesn't boil down to: It's the new Tufa book by Bledsoe -- it's great, go read it. Which is essentially a tautology followed by a natural conclusion. And isn't that interesting (then again, I never promised you interesting, Dear Reader).

 

So, what sets this one apart? Well, there's the pretty mundane nature of the inciting incident (mundane meaning not magical, not mundane meaning ordinary), the framing device, and the . . . I don't want to say resolution (because there are a few -- and yet none), I guess the way things end.

 

The framing device is perfect for a Tufa novel -- Janet Harper, a noted musician and actress is at a story-telling festival and brings her guitar onstage to use with her story -- one that's true, but that no one in the audience will believe, as much as she says it. She does change the names of the participants (which makes her different than Ray Parrish) to protect everyone involved -- including herself (see Ray Parrish).

 

Janet tells the story of Kera Rogers, who goes for a walk one morning to go play a little music, relax a bit, sext a little with a couple of guys, think a little about cutting out one or both of the guys when she's attacked by a wild animal and is never seen again. At least not most of her -- a small body part or two shows up. The community is horrified that this happens and her parents grieve the end of her young life. Duncan Gowan is one of the boys she was involved with -- and thought he was the only one -- is wrecked by her death and learning that she was also sleeping with someone else.

 

The rest of the tale traces the ripples from this event over the next few months (almost a year) -- and the next victim to fall prey to the animal -- Kera's family moving on, Duncan getting involved with another woman, the hunters that come in to track the beast (which will also hopefully prevent any police investigation). One of the hunters gets involved with a Tufa we've known since the first book, and is introduced to the real culture of Needsville.

 

While all this is going on, we get the best picture of how things are going with the faction formerly led by Rockhouse Hicks, now led by Junior Damo, and it's clear to everyone that Junior is not the new Rockhouse -- which is mostly good, but there are some real drawbacks. Mandalay Harris takes it upon herself -- even though the dead are Junior's -- to get to the bottom of what happened. Sure, it was a wild animal attack -- but is that all it was? Her methods aren't exactly anything you'll find in a police procedural, but produce results that Gil Grissom and his kind would envy.

 

The best parts of these books is the way that people like Junior, Mandalay, Bliss, and Bronwyn are secondary characters; while people we've never met (or just barely) like Kera, Duncan, Janet, and Jack Cates (the hunter) are the focus. Yet somehow, we care about them almost as much -- and through the eyes and experiences of the new characters we learn more about our old friends and see them grow and develop. Bledsoe is fantastic at making each of these books very different from the rest, yet clearly part of a series.

 

Like every novel in this series -- this can be your introduction to the world. Actually, this one may be a better intro-book than any but the first (even as I write that I can think of arguments against it, but I think I can stick with it). You don't have to have any advance knowledge of this world to appreciate 98% of the book.

 

There's heart, magic, fun, wonder, vengeance, a dash of romance and mystery wrapped up in this novel -- expressed through very human characters. The humanity shown by these people who aren't all that human shines through more than anything else.


<img class="aligncenter" src="http://angelsguiltypleasures.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/2017LibraryLoveChallenge05-400x400-angelsgp.png" alt="2017 Library Love Challenge" style="border:none;height:auto;width:200px;">

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2017/06/21/gather-her-round-by-alex-bledsoe
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review 2017-02-06 21:58
The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe - My Thoughts
The Hum and the Shiver (Tufa #1) - Alex Bledsoe

Novels of the Tufa - Book 1

 

This book was a guts buy for me when it was on sale a few weeks ago.  I picked it and books 2 and 3 up at the same time just because the blurbs sounded good!  And different.

We're basically talking musical fae folk in the Appalachian mountains.

The Tuatha Dé Dannan of Irish-Celtic mythology disappeared way back when, according to folklore, and in these tales, they have disappeared to Appalachian America.  Tennesee.  Cloud Country.  And are now called the Tufa.  :)  I love it!  This is a take I've not read before and it instantly caught my attention.

So, when The Hum and the Shiver turned out to be a really enjoyable read, I was right pleased!

It tells the tale of one of the First Daughters of one of the two Tufa clans (basically the seelie and unseelie folk) returning home a war hero after a horrific attack and imprisonment overseas.  Will she claim her birthright and heal herself in mind and body or will she turn her back on the responsibilities it entails.  And what about some of the other characters - what choices will they make?  Accept what they are and embrace it, or not.

Now, I'm not certain if the characters we meet in this book continue their stories in the others, but I think maybe, even if they aren't the main characters of the subsequent books.  Doesn't matter.  I love the premise, I really enjoy Bledsoe's voice and his writing is gorgeous and easy to read, so yep, I will be reading them!   Oh, and if you're a fan of Charles de Lint, you will definitely like these, IMO.

I do wonder though... what happened to Fred Blasco???????

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review 2016-11-24 01:33
Grief, Love and Mystery in TN with the Tufa
Chapel of Ease: A Novel of the Tufa (Tufa Novels) - Alex Bledsoe
"Sometimes the best mysteries are never solved, because the mystery is too important to lose. This is the story about one of those mysteries. Most of it's true, and the parts that ain't, well, they still sound true."


It's time to return to Needsville, TN, the home of the Tufa for the latest installment in one of the best ongoing Fantasy around. One of the best things about this series is how every book is completely different from its predecessors, but they all clearly belong to the same series.

 

After a quick tease, we enter the story in New York City where an up-and-coming musical writer/composer and a well-established director are casting for an off-Broadway musical (the opening line of which was quoted above). There's something about the story and songs penned by Ray Parrish that draws everyone who reads and/or hears them in as surely as moths to a flame. One such person was Matt Johanssen, who becomes friends with Ray as well as one of the more dedicated cast members.

 

The twist in this tale comes from the source of Ray's material -- old (and not-so-old) Tufa stories and music. As anyone who knows these people realizes, people back home are not going to look kindly on this. There are a couple of people on the fringes of Ray's world that make it clear that the Tufa want something out of Ray -- ideally, a cessation of any musical or play or anything ending up in public. Ray will not be dissuaded, this is the story he wants to tell -- whether people in Needsville want him to or not.

 

Just before the much-talked about play opens, Ray dies in his sleep and it falls upon Matt to bring his ashes home to his family. While there, he has the opportunity to look into the places and people this play is based on -- and maybe get an idea what the central mystery of the play is about. Ray'd played his cards close to the chest on this topic and without him around to tell the cast, someone has to do some first-hand research. So, while mourning his friend and getting to know his family, Matt finds himself on the verge of instigating a feud while doing his research.

 

Now, it's not unusual for a Tufa novel to feature an outsider's first encounter with the Tufa. But this time, the book is just about that -- there's so little action outside of this story that it really doesn't merit attention (at least not now). In these pages we have a first person narrator as the person encountering the culture. This gives everything an immediacy, an intimacy that we don't normally get to these. Also, the narrow concentration keeps the reader focused on what's going on with the Parrishes and Matt, without worrying about the Tufa politics, shifting power, and so on (it's there, and there are changes in town, but that's not what the novel is about).

 

In many ways, it's not a novel about the Tufa -- it just happens that they're around, it's a novel about Matt and Ray. But once you throw the Tufa in, you end up with something that's not your typical story about a dancer/actor from NYC returning his friends' ashes to the Appalachian town he grew up in.

 

I thought Matt was great -- as was his dawning realization that he wasn't in the world he knew anymore, and how he reacted to that realization. The way he stepped into parts of the culture he was exposed to was well handled, second only to the way he went about fighting against or struggling with the rest.

 

You do get to see your favorite recurring characters and they make references to events in the other novels, so readers of the series do get to check in on things other than the Parrishes -- please don't misunderstand. The novel's focus isn't on that, however.

 

If you even glance at the cover blurb, you know that someone has to die so that there's an urn for Matt to bring to Cloud County, but Ray's inevitable death was a doozy -- and the memorial service held for him was one of the more moving things I've read this year (the impromptu memorial in New York held by friends/cast, that is -- the wake the Tufa held was a different kind of experience). Making you care about a guy you know is going to die before you open the book and meet him that much takes a special kind of writer -- and that's what Alex Bledsoe is. Naturally, that doesn't just apply to Ray; it works for Matt, the Parrishes, C. C. and several others who actually survive the book (and one that doesn't).

 

I feel like I'm in danger of becoming the Chris Farley talk show host character here, "Remember that part in the book where Matt does ____? That was cool." I really don't know what to say about this book -- or the others in the series -- that I haven't before. It's a great setting, with a culture and people you want to see again and again, for both understanding and entertainment. Plus the overwhelming desire to actually hear the music they keep talking about. This is Bledsoe at the top of his game, you should be sure not to miss it.

 

And, like the play itself -- it all sounds true.

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review 2015-08-08 00:17
Another magical read in this great series
Long Black Curl: A Novel of the Tufa (Tufa Novels) - Alex Bledsoe

This book was practically un-put-downable. Not because I was driven to find out what happens next -- like a Finder, or Child etc. This is one of those kind of books you don't want to put down because you don't want to leave that world, not for a minute, to step back into this one, as nice as it is -- filled with your stuff, and your great wife and frequently tolerable children. But this book's little corner of Appalachia that touches another world (in more ways than one) is a place you just want to exist in. Granted, I'd rather be in one of the earlier books than this one (not a reflection of the quality of the book, just the events portrayed).

 

Not all that long ago, especially by Tufa standards, Bo-Kate Wisby and her beau, Jefferson Powell wreaked all sorts of havoc. They were so terrible that they were banished from the community, unable to return -- or, worst of all, make music. WHen you think of some of the despicable things that have happened or have been described in the previous two novels by citizens in good standing, you get an idea just how bad this was. Both have spent decades yearning to return, to play music -- but have had to settle for incredibly successful careers in the music business. Which would be a special kind of torture and pleasure -- being that close but not able to partake, still being able to appreciate it though. Somehow, however, this curse was lifted without anyone realizing it.

 

Well, anyone but Bo-Kate. She returns to get revenge and bow the Tufa to her will, destroying their heritage, their way of life and instituting her own. Her approach is not subtle, she clearly learned a little bit from the "Shock and Awe" tactics of a recent war. My jaw almost dropped when i saw the first step that was taken by Bo-Kate. I -- like most of the Tufa -- didn't think that was possible, or at least likely. Although there was something to appreciate about that action, there wasn't in the rest of what she did to the community -- I can't think of any fictional character I've had such a visceral reaction to (especially this quickly) this side of Joffrey Lannister Baratheon, first of his name.

 

It should go without saying with this world, the way the rest of the Tufa respond and defend themselves isn't how you'd expect. Which goes double for how things play out. Thankfully, I did really enjoy the rest of the Wisbys -- especially Bo-Kate's sister. I hope to spend more time with them. Actually, I liked getting to know all the new characters -- including Bo-Kate's allies (or those characters who weren't new, but we hadn't really spent time with). The characters in this community are so well drawn, so real that you almost don't need a plot to enjoy a book about them.

 

As always, I'm jealous of the relationship between these people and music. I don't have it -- a couple of my kids do, at least. I think the way the two banished Tufa react to their returning musical ability tells you almost everything you need to know about them. These are books that need to come with their own score, their own soundtrack. Sadly, I don't think humans are capable of putting out anything worthy of the books. As good as some of the music inspired by this series has been, it's not good enough to live up to Tufa standards.

 

Two things that detracted from the book for me. First is the sex. Not that Bledsoe's a model of Victorian attitudes toward sex before this, but Long Black Curl is pretty sexually explicit -- moreso and more often than before (I'm reasonably sure, but am not interested enough to go back and check). I don't think it was necessary, but don't think it hurt things. It was just one of those things that seemed to stick out to me.

 

Secondly, this is absolutely the most straight-forward of the series, which is both a strength and a weakness. It's more accessible. There's almost no doubt whatsoever whats going on. The previous two books haven't been exactly subtle about the magic and how it works out in the lives of the Tufa -- but (and I'm struggling to express this the way I want to) they mostly just let us see what happened and say "hey, that's magic." There's some winking and nudging, but primarily the reader has to do the heavy lifting. To switch metaphors, Bledsoe gave us all the numbers and equations, but we had solve for x on our own. But here? It's all spelled out. It's somewhat refreshing, but a little disappointing, too.

 

But that's just a little tarnish to the series. It's still one of the best out there. This book changes the world, but not so much that you won't recognize it -- this is all about growth, development. It does my heart good to know that Bledoe is writing #5 at the moment, so we've got at least a few hundred more pages of this world to come.

 

You can absolutely start here, but I think you'd be better off starting with the first, The Hum and the Shiver to you can catch all the nuance and atmosphere and all that. What it means that character X shows up and does Y. That kind of thing. Either way, dive into this world.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2015/08/07/long-black-curl-by-alex-bledsoe
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